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207 Human Services Organizations and Over 1500 Human Services Workers Release Open Letter to the Mayor Calling on the City to Fund Essential Services and Workers
Human services agencies demand that the City fully fund their contracts, provide hazard pay for essential staff, and prioritize services and programs for the hardest hit communities in budget.
New York, NY-- 207 human services agencies and over 1500 individual human services workers released an open letter to the Mayor calling on the City to recognize the human services workforce, which has been declared essential during COVID-19, as such by providing adequate pay, proper PPE, and fully funded contracts and services.
Collectively, the signing agencies employ 86,000 staff and serve 2.27 million New Yorkers each year. During COVID-19, these agencies are providing home care, serving people experiencing homelessness, staffing residential facilities, delivering meals and staffing food pantries, offering survivors of violence critical support, and navigating unemployment benefits and healthcare. Staff are required to go to work, but the City has not provided hazard pay for city contracted workers or supplied adequate Personal Protective Equipment.
Additionally, the human services sector is facing massive cuts at the City level, at a time when the demand for human services is increasing exponentially. The signers call for fully funding all City and Discretionary contracts through FY21, and prioritizing programs and services that support the communities hit hardest by COVID-19 in the FY21 budget.
“I’ve been a Project Hospitality homeless & HIV prevention outreach worker for more than 20 years. Our work is life saving, from street to safety, from disease to healthcare, from despair to hope— our workers raise up life, save life. Without our work so many lives would be even more diminished, and will die on the streets,” said Margaret Jeromey, Outreach Worker at Project Hospitality.
“It is important to offer someone on the street the ability to access information and services. It is also equally important to offer that person basic human interaction: A chance to have a conversation, whether it be related to accepting services or not. Outreach workers are out 24hrs a day, 7 days a week doing this work in the toughest of times. We may not always be recognized as essential, but the truth is we are as essential as anyone else providing services in this pandemic. If we are not out there doing the work, we leave an already vulnerable population with less of a chance to get through this,” said Juan Rivera, Program Director of the Homeless Outreach Team at BronxWorks.
“For 55 years, CPC’s services have been essential to Asian American, immigrant and low income communities throughout New York City, and today our services are needed more than ever. But if the City cannot prioritize social services for the most marginalized impacted by COVID-19 and cannot adequately pay our workers who are on the frontlines of this crisis, then the City will not have the organizations and workers that are most capable of helping during the recovery,” said Wayne Ho, President and CEO of the Chinese-American Planning Council (CPC).
“Long before City and State officials declared human service organizations ‘essential’, in response to the COVID-19 crisis, we knew that these organizations and services have been essential to keeping communities, families and individuals, strong and resilient,” said Darren Bloch, CEO & Executive Director of Greenwich House, Inc. “At a time of great fiscal and social pressures, officials should be seeking ways to work with and build up these community resources, because these organizers and workers are going to be the cornerstones of rebuilding our communities.”
"The human services sector has been, is and will always be essential to New York's most vulnerable community members. For the past 41 years, NMIC has been supporting people to move from crisis to self sufficiency. Now more than ever, our services will be key to the recovery and rebuilding of NYC and demand that you not balance the budget on the backs of those who will need more assistance than ever," said Maria Lizardo, Executive Director of the Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation (NMIC).
"Throughout our City's history, the social safety net has always been in place to prevent very vulnerable New Yorkers from experiencing extreme peril. During this period of unprecedented crisis, the essential workers who have always maintained this safety net have acted bravely and selflessly to provide life-saving services and supports. It will be the health and economic security of this essential workforce that will ensure that our City recovers from this crisis. As the adoption of the budget for the City of New York approaches rapidly, cuts that harm this workforce or hinder their effectiveness are simply unacceptable," said Gregory J. Morris, President and Executive Director of the Stanley M. Isaacs Neighborhood Center.
“Every evening, we applaud the many heroes of our city-- our essential workers. In this moment, we are also recognizing the hundreds of thousands of human service workers who tirelessly show up each day to meet the needs of vulnerable communities as they navigate crises. The city relies on the human service sector to support New Yorkers, many of whom face poverty and other complex challenges,” said Niketa Sheth, CEO of Womankind. “Womankind provides critical services to survivors of domestic violence, sexual violence and human trafficking-- Our programs and emergency housing serve as a lifeline to so many in need before, during and after the pandemic. We are human service workers and we continue to work on the front lines of restoring New York - not just during the pandemic, but always."
“I am blessed to serve alongside over 1,000 amazing staff who reported to the COVID frontlines on March 10th, there was fear, but there was no hesitation. For most of them, this is not just a job, this is calling. They choose to serve, they are essential, they are mostly black and brown. They deserve our support and they must be recognized,” said Jeremy Christopher Kohomban, President and CEO of The Children's Village.
“Human services workers are among the unsung heroes of this pandemic -- and that was true even before COVID-19. They are essential to keeping New Yorkers healthy and safe, and we urge the city government to increase their pay, in addition to making human services organizations even more active partners in responding to this crisis,” said David Rivel, CEO of The Jewish Board.
The dedicated women and men caring for the most vulnerable New Yorkers on behalf of JASA and the city's wonderfully diverse network of non-profit human service providers are New York's safety net. They deserve respect, appreciation, fair compensation, and the equipment that will help them stay safe,” said Kathryn Haslanger, CEO of JASA.
"New York has relied on JCCA's high-quality programs since 1822 because we know how to help struggling families in a crisis. Today, we are on the ground working with those who need us because it is our mission to strengthen the communities we live in--global pandemic or not. The well-being and safety of New York's children and families is always our priority, and our human services workers are always essential," said Ronald E. Richter, CEO and Executive Director, JCCA.